Making Sense of the God of the Old Testament:
A Conference Examining God’s Sacred Story
Was held Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 27, 28 and 29, 2012
At St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania
Sponsored by The Center for Biblical Studies founded at St. Thomas Church
This event is supported and helped to be made possible by the generous support of the Philadelphia Theological Institute
Friday, April 27
Buffet Dinner: 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. in MacColl Auditorium
Evening Program: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. in the church
An Overview of the Old Testament
Dr. Brueggemann will give a broad-strokes sketch of Old Testament faith and literature in three big moves – Torah, Prophets and Writings. The Old Testament moves through family stories, poems of dispute and hope, and finally lyrical engagement. Through that complex process, Israel is lining out a different identity for its faith in the midst of the world. We will follow that process through story, poem, and lyric in order to see what distinct identity might be given us as a people of faith in the midst of the world. It is all about a different identity! Dr. Sharp and Dr. Enns will respond.
Saturday, April 28
Morning Program: 9:00 a.m. – noon – in MacColl Auditorium
The God of Covenantal Imagination
Dr. Brueggemann will examine the God of Genesis and Exodus. It turns out that the God of the Bible is not user-friendly and will not conform to our favorite projects or slogans. The early pages of the Bible give us a God who makes promises, exactly in the face of despair. The same God enacts liberty in a world of bondage. The texts invite us to think new thoughts and live new lives against despair that is all around us and against bondage that has a dozen faces among us. Dr. Sharp and Dr. Enns will respond.
Boxed Lunch: 12:00 noon –1:00 p.m.
There will be time to walk the labyrinth as the carillon bells play, purchase books or enjoy a guided cemetery or church tour.
Afternoon Program: 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Leaving the Garden: Biblical Irony as an Invitation to Discernment
Is there irony in the Bible? Absolutely! Dr. Sharp will explore the delightful and disturbing ironies on display in the story of Balaam and his donkey, the prophesying of Amos, and the skepticism of Ecclesiastes employ that invite us into the wisdom about God’s purposes and desires for our lives. Reflecting on ways in which irony powerfully refutes our inadequate perspectives and invites us into deeper wisdom, Dr. Sharp will offer thoughts on the vital importance of ironic biblical texts for the spiritual formation of Christian believers in the contemporary world. Dr. Brueggemann and Dr. Enns will respond.
Sunday, April 29
Worship – 8:00 and 9:30 a.m.
Sunday Forum – 11:00 a.m. – noon
God in Recovery: A Look at God, Religion and Violence in the Old Testament.
Dr. Brueggemann will address how the God of the Bible offends us because this God is not mellow and benign as we might prefer. Rather this God lives in, with, and under the violence that we abhor. As much as we might wish away violence, violence persists in the Bible, in the world, and even in our own inclination. We will think about that deep problem and ponder how it is that this God struggles with the seduction of violence, as do we. Dr. Sharp and Dr. Enns will respond.
Lunch on your own:
We will offer local suggestions. Books by Drs. Brueggemann, Sharp and Enns on sale with book signings by authors.
Sunday afternoon: 1:30 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.
Singing the Truth: The Psalms and Spiritual Transformation
The psalms help us to remember God’s saving deeds, to lament the brokenness of the world, and to dare to hope again. Dr. Sharp will offer a reading of Psalms 44 and 46 that attends to the brilliant use of ambiguity, reversals, and drama in those ancient hymns. We will consider devotional study of the Psalms as a spiritual practice that can transform Christian believers and empower communities of faith, empowering us to remember, to lament, and finally to claim our Gospel hope with renewed strength in this broken world. Dr. Brueggemann and Dr. Enns will respond.
Wisdom from the Prophets
Part 1: A Work of Truth-Telling
Dr. Brueggemann will address issues of honesty. Everyone knows that we live amid propaganda, ideology, and lies that distort our social reality. In the midst of that, the truth must be told, even when it rubs us the wrong way. The Old Testament is a study in truth-telling that seeks to break the bubble of denial in which we often prefer to live.
Part II: The Work of Hope-Telling
Dr. Brueggemann will address how we can live with hope in difficult situations. It is easy to think that we live in a zero-sum world where no new gifts are given. We are, by that assumed reality, drawn into despair about our future. The Old Testament gives us a God who makes all things new. Readers are invited to surprises and gifts that we never imagined. We are summoned to break out beyond the world of greedy scarcity that defines so much of our life together. Dr. Sharp and Dr. Enns will respond.
The Conference Concludes with a Choral Evensong at 4:30 p.m.
Featuring the St. Thomas Choir and Choristers, Guest Preacher Dr. Brueggemann
Walter Brueggemann is a world-renowned professor of Old Testament and author of 58 books and hundreds of articles (two of which are on the Center for Biblical Studies website). He served as William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament at the Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia from 1986-2003. Prior to that he taught at Eden Theological Seminary from 1961-1986. He did his undergraduate work at Elmhurst College and graduate work at Eden Theological Seminary, the Union Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. at St. Louis University. The son of a minister of the German Evangelical Synod of North America, Walter Brueggemann was ordained in the United Church of Christ. He is an advocate and practitioner of rhetorical criticism. Dr. Brueggemann studied sociology as an undergraduate and is known throughout the world for his brilliant method of combining literary and sociological modes of reading the Bible. He is an exegete and a theologian of the highest order. He has written commentaries on Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, 1 and 2 Samuel, Isaiah and Jeremiah. His most notable work is on the Psalter. Now retired, he resides in Cincinnati. His books include: An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination, Awed to Heaven, Rooted to Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann, Praying the Psalms, Prophetic Imagination, The Message of the Psalms: A Theological Commentary, The Land: Place as Gift, Promise and Challenge in Biblical Faith.
Carolyn J. Sharp is Associate Professor of Hebrew Scriptures at the Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut. Her research explores aspects of the composition and theology of Hebrew Scripture texts. She is author of Wrestling the Word: The Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Believer, Old Testament Prophets for Today, Irony and Meaning in the Hebrew Bible, Prophecy and Ideology in Jeremiah: Struggles for Authority in the Deutero-Jeremianic Prose. She studied at Wesleyan University and did her graduate studies and her Ph.D. at the Yale Divinity School. She has taught courses on “Biblical Theology: Walter Brueggemann and His Critics,” “Character and Community in the Biblical Story: Jonah, Ruth and Esther,” “Hebrew Exegesis of Genesis: Women and Other Outsiders” and “Scripture and Social Ethics” (co-taught with Willis Jenkins). Dr. Sharp will have been recently ordained as an Episcopal priest shortly before our conference and will be the celebrant at our Sunday worship.
Pete Enns is a noted author and teacher on the Hebrew Scriptures. He studied at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania and did graduate work at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and his Ph.D. at Harvard University. Dr. Enns taught at Westminster Theological Seminary for 14 years, where he served as Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Hermeneutics and edited the Westminster Theological Journal from 2000-2005. He has taught at Harvard University and Princeton Theological Seminary. He has recently served as Senior Fellow, Biblical Studies with The BioLogos Foundation, a Christian organization that “explores, promotes and celebrates the integration of science and Christian faith.” Dr. Enns’s main interest is the intersection of the ancient text of the Bible contemporary Christian faith. He is best known for his book Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. His other books include: Telling God’s Story, Invitation to Genesis, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, and commentaries on Exodus and Ecclesiastes.